These massive silvery cephalopods can grow up to 13 meters in length, and are considered some of the largest ocean predators in existence. Since they live so deep underwater, it has been very difficult to find them, and most specimens seen are dead ones.
The particular specimen in the video was closer to 3 meters long, and the footage of it was shot by an international team from the Japan National Museum of Nature and Science, the Japanese Broadcasting Company and the Discovery Channel, who spent over 400 hours searching for the giant squid.
"Many people have tried to capture an image of a giant squid alive in its natural habit, whether that's researchers or film crews. But they all failed. These are the first ever images of a real live giant squid," said Tsunemi Kubodera, a zoologist at the National Museum of Nature and Science, according to Reuters. Kubodera previously captured the first digital camera images of a giant squid, back in September 2004, but only caught it as it was retreating from the camera light.
What allowed this effort to succeed where others had failed was the use of near-infrared lights, that neither humans nor squid can see. Diving down to a depth of nearly a kilometre below the surface in a small submersible, at a location near Chichi Island — where another giant squid had been hauled from the waters back in 2006 — they switched on these near-infrared lights, released a small squid as bait, and waited.
"If you try and approach making a load of noise, using a bright white light, then the squid won't come anywhere near you. That was our basic thinking," said Kubodera. "So we sat there in the pitch black, using a near-infrared light invisible even to the human eye, waiting for the giant squid to approach."
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Once a giant squid approached the bait, the team began recording, using a special camera that can pick up the infrared light.
"I've seen a lot of giant squid specimens in my time," he added, "but mainly those hauled out of the ocean. This was the first time for me to see with my own eyes a giant squid swimming. It was stunning, I couldn't have dreamt that it would be so beautiful. It was such a wonderful creature."
The footage has already been shown on NHK and will be shown as part of the Discovery Channel Curiosity series, called Monster Squid: The Giant Is Real, which premieres on Sunday, January 27th.